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Set in a world where seasons rule, last year’s, HBO “Game of Thrones” series features characters who ominously warn that “winter is coming.” In Vermont, it’s much the same: We’re steeling ourselves for a wicked long spell of terminal cold.
The equation is thus: Winter = bitter cold x 6 months + heating bills - the contents of your savings account. Place the blame wherever you want, but heating’s high costs mean that keeping one’s house cozy requires the kind of cataclysmic financial investment upon which great bankruptcies are built. Up here, you can lose your shirt trying to stay warm. Fortunately, we’re getting good at staying warm without going broke. And since energy = money, ideas like these light a sustainable fire no matter where you live:
- Close-off little used rooms. For example, we shut the door and stop the heat to our guest room unless we actually have guests.
- Remember that 20 percent of all heat loss in the average home happens through its windows.  If yours leak, seal them. Those plastic sheeting kits you blow-dry to tighten stop drafts cold and are barely noticeable.
- Seal foundation cracks, attic entrances, places where pipes and utilities enter, and door and window frame gaps. Fixing troublespots like these can cut up to 10 percent off your home’s total yearly energy bill. 
- Use curtains and shades. Open them to let in the sun’s daytime heat and draw them closed at night for extra insulation around windows.
- Use a draft-stopper at the base of doors leading outside. A simple rolled up towel or blanket will work in a pinch.
- Shower with the bathroom door open to let its heat into the house.
- Use a ceiling fan to force heat that collects up at the ceiling down to floor level where everyone actually lives.
- Lower your thermostat. Every 1° it’s lowered for eight hours shaves about 1 percent off heating bills.  Aim for 68° when you’re home, and 55° or lower when you’re away or sleeping. “Smart” thermostats like the Nest learn your preferences and adjust temps before you get home or wake-up.
- Don’t use your fireplace. It sounds counterintuitive, but fires send most of their heat up the chimney and the draft this creates sucks out the warm air in your house along with it.
- Move your furniture away from radiators and vents so their heat can make it into the room unimpeded.
- Check your door sweeps—the fins or brushes under exterior doors that block air. Replace any that leak.
- Stick an insulating foam gasket inside every outlet and switch on every exterior-facing wall. You can buy them at the hardware store for pennies.
- If you have a furnace filter, clean or change it to lower heating bills by 5-15 percent. 
- Use an electric blanket. I wouldn’t spend too much time with the electricity flowing due to EMFs, but pre-heating your bed or sitting under one for a few minutes on the sofa makes rooms seem much warmer than they are.
These ideas will keep you warm without icing your finances. They’ll also cool your home’s carbon footprint to keep the planet from overheating. All cheap thermal references aside, they’re well worth the effort.
About the Inkslinger
The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America’s most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds.